I wrote this recently for a client. It got rave reviews — surprisingly, not every blog post I write elicits an enthusiastic “thank you” — so I re-read it and decided to post it here. Go get ’em, Tiger!
Go For It! How To Land Your Dream Job by Beth Behrendt
It may seem like a “pie-in-the-sky” goal. My dream job? Yeah, right. Only people like Steve Jobs or Steven Spielberg or Stephen King are lucky enough to end up getting rich doing what they love.
Well, it’s not just luck, it’s not only in high-profile careers, and it doesn’t just happen to people named Steve. Everyone knows lots of people who are unhappy or stuck on auto-pilot in their careers… but there are just as many who truly love what they do (and most of them are making a pretty good salary doing it). They didn’t get there just by luck. Here are some suggestions for ways that can get you closer to — and hopefully land you smack-dab in the middle of — your dream job.
[An aside: First, you need to figure out what your dream job IS, of course. If you haven’t exactly identified it yet, there are a plethora of books and online sources that can help you figure this out. Some people have known what it is all their lives, some people take decades to figure it out. What matters is that once you know it, your path to getting there becomes a lot more clearcut.]
Now the suggestions:
Find role models doing your dream job. Learn from them.
Read about their career paths if you can’t meet with them personally. If you can meet them in person (and it never hurts to ask, people generally enjoy sharing their own knowledge) ask for guidance, suggestions, advice and referrals to other people to talk with. Try an internship. Volunteer for their organization. While you may eventually choose to take the different path than your role model, it can be very educational to learn about why and how they made the choices they did to get them to where they are.
Find other role models (happy and successful in other fields than yours). Learn from them.
You may be amazed at the lessons you can learn, or the connections you can make, by talking to other successful, happy-in-their-job people. Even if their field is not exactly what you want to do, they may lead you to meeting people who work where you would like to work some day doing the job you would like to do. Being genuinely interested in others, and supportive of the work they do, can open up unexpected doors all the time.
Make sacrifices. But don’t quit your day job (yet).
You may have to give up some things to get your dream job: maybe not being paid as much pay as you’d like, or maybe living in a different part of the country. You will have to weigh these sacrifices vs. the experience. If those seem too difficult to make, perhaps it isn’t really your dream job if you aren’t willing to make sacrifices for it?
Of course that doesn’t necessarily mean you should throw all caution to the wind. You can research your dream job, meet people and dip your toes in the water with freelancing or volunteering while you hang on to your current job. And remember to be grateful for that job and show that graciousness at work — you never know how the people you know there might play a role in getting you where you want to be. Eventually you will need to take the leap from your current work to your dream job, but you will have the safety net of money and relationships with people there to help you make that jump.
Sell yourself. Get the skills needed. Market them.
Even if your dream job doesn’t involve sales, there’s always going to be a sales aspect to getting there. Selling yourself! Whether it’s your ideas or your skills and knowledge, nobody is going to know their value if you don’t promote them. From your research about your role models and your preferred job, make sure you are developing the relevant skills you need to get there. Of course a standard resume is important and occasionally needed. But it’s equally important to be able to market yourself across “platforms”:
- have short talking points to describe yourself when you meet new people
- massage your resume so it is relevant for different types of social media
- learn from your role models or people in the field what types of social media are used to discover candidates
You may think you hate selling, but if you want to love your job realize that selling yourself is a key part of getting there. You may discover that you actually enjoy it!
Make a plan. Then be willing to trash it.
Don’t over think it or think that ever single step needs to be mapped out. Focus on what you can do in the near future that will get you to the big picture. Then revise as you go along. You will learn what was worth the effort and what was not, or how you could have approached it differently. Ask your role models or mentors for advice about your next steps. You may find that the specifics of your dream job evolve as you get closer to your goal.
Take a BIG step.
Eventually you will need to tackle a big step to get closer to your goal. It will take courage. Keep your faith in your abilities and the experience you’ve gained through your work so far, the research you’ve done, and the people you’ve met. Accept that this may ultimately be a step back, but the lessons you learn will do way more for your progress than any number of playing-it-safe tasks.
Pay it back. Pay it forward.
Once you get to your dream job, never forget the help you got to get there. Express gratitude for the job you have and be grateful to those who helped you along the way. Equally important, mentor and openly help others get to their own dream jobs.
The take-away? Want to do what you love? Identify it. Be smart about how to get there. Work hard. Engage with and appreciate other people. You CAN have your dream job!